Cornell continues its lightening-quick pace to maturity this winter break as it plays a number of heavyweight opponents including Richmond, Georgia Tech, and Brown. The Red has the 96th toughest schedule in the nation thus far, according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today, a number that is surely to rise as the season progresses.
Its first seven games were against teams that have a composite record of 30-24 this season, including undefeated Syracuse and one-loss Notre Dame.
Cornell opens the break against Lafayette (3-4) this Saturday in Allan Kirby Sports Center. The Leopards beat the Red 72-62 last season and hold a 8-5 advantage in the series. The squad has been battle-tested itself, falling to Miami, Penn State and Columbia by an average of only eight points. Senior guard Brian Burke leads the team in points per game (14.7), while the team shoots almost 50% from the field. The Leopards hold two freshmen centers over 6-11 but start senior Mick Kuberka, who averages five rebounds per game.
The Red returns home for a game against Lehigh before hitting the road to attend the Spider Invitational and face off against Georgia Tech.
Lehigh has struggled of late, having lost its first seven games — three against Ivy League opponents. Their record can largely be attributed to the turnovers the Mountain Hawks commit — an average of almost 18 per game. Forwards Matt Logie and Scott Taylor are both averaging over 10 points per game.
Richmond hosts the Spider Invitational which will include local favorites VMI and James Madison University. After starting the season with four wins, the Spiders dropped two straight to Virginia Commonwealth University and Mississippi State. Guard Tony Robbins runs the show from the backcourt, leading the team in points per game (16.8) and rebounds per game (9.4). The team is hot on the road, already having won two in a row.
Cornell then travels to Georgia to meet the Yellow Jackets (3-4) for the first ever meeting between these two schools. Head coach Paul Hewitt leads a relatively young squad that lost a number of seniors from last year’s NCAA tournament team. Georgia Tech came six points from handing UNC its worst start ever, lost to Penn, and was blown away by Illinois. The squad’s highlight of the season was a hard-fought 62-61 victory over Wisconsin in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
The Red return home for a game against Army on January 5, before hitting the road again. The Black Knights returned all five starters from last season’s 9-19 team, which lost 91-81 to Cornell in overtime. After winning three straight games to open the season, Army dropped three, including a 69-64 thriller against Columbia. In that game, forward Matt Collins recorded a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Cornell then begins its Ivy League season against Brown, Yale and Columbia. As a whole, the Ivy League has been performing very well. Last week, the league went 13-4 in non-conference games and is on pace to win 60 this season, upping the record by 10 wins. Brown is by far the hottest team, having recently beaten Big East mainstay Providence, 67-60. It was only the second time the Bears have pulled off the feat in the last 22 seasons and ranks as one of their biggest victories ever. Junior guard Earl Hunt was named Ivy League player of the week as he averaged 30 points in two games.
Yale is also flying high, having scored 80 or more points in four straight games for the first time in its 106 years of basketball. The Bulldogs are averaging 83 points per game and are shooting 45% from the field. Four players average double digit points per game, and center Paul Vitelli has 10 blocks on the season. Cornell leads the series 99-91 and split the home-and-away last season.
The Red closes its winter break against Columbia. The 5-2 Lions have been unstoppable at home, having won three straight including a 53-47 come-from-behind win which saw the team erase an 11-point deficit in the second half. Craig Austin, a 6-6 forward who was last season’s Ivy League player of the year, leads the team with 16.7 points per game. Columbia leads the series 114-82.
Archived article by Sumeet Sarin